In the state of the Brazilian capital that consumes the most whiskey, cachaça has been solidifying, little by little, its top place in the most sophisticated bars and events. Pernambuco is the second biggest producer of the genuinely Brazilian distilled drink and, since 2008, boasts its status as Cultural and Immaterial Heritage. In Brazil, cachaça takes up second place in the most consumed alcoholic drinks ranking, just losing out to beer. The data comes from the Brazilian Program of the Development of Sugarcane Rum, Caninha or Cachaça (PBDA).
In the book Açúcar, published in 1939, Pernambucan Gilberto Freyre presented cachaça as the biggest “hunger-killer” in Brazil, with the power to make the poor population forget food scarcity and go back to work. Decades later, his grandchild and also sociologist Gilberto Freyre Neto, a drink expert, reveals that more than 800 million liters of cachaça are made per year in Brazil and the market has increasingly turned towards artisanal production. “In the last few years, cachaça started to compete strongly with other distilled drinks, like vodka, whiskey, and cognac. Companies are developing premium and extra-premium products, investing a lot in marketing”, he informs.
According to Freyre Neto, aside from investing in sophisticated manufacturing, the producers are specializing in the storage (in steel barrels) and in the ageing (in wood barrels) of the drink, steps that come after distillation. “It can be stored for years. It’s in this phase that the produce acquires its differential factor, a ‘personality'”, he specifies.
In Brazil, there are more than 40 wood-based options for ageing, with examples being amburana, balsam and chestnut. “Each species imprints a degree of color and unique flavor. Its coloration, for example, can vary from transparent or silver to a deep amber color”, he reveals. “This diversity has surprised those that operate in the drink tasting area,” says the expert. Each type of cachaça can be harmonized with different plates.
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The Ministry of Agriculture, Cattle and Supply restricts cachaça to the denomination of sugarcane rum exclusively produced in Brazil, with an alcoholic grade of 38 to 48% in volume, obtained by distillation of fermented sugarcane mash. “There’s a difference between aguardente, which is simply the distilled drink from sugarcane, and cachaça. The second should come from exact production molds, taking into consideration volume and temperature assessment, for example”, explains Gilberto Freyre Neto.
Cachaças can be divided, in a generic manner, into two types: artisanal and industrial. The drink manufactured in large scale, in a mechanized way, is known as “column” cachaça, alluding to the equipment in which it’s distilled. In the elaboration of the artisanal product, distillation occurs in copper stills, after a manual cutting of the sugarcane, simple milling and natural fermentation processes.
Vitoriosa cachaça, idealized in 2013 to celebrate 75 years of the Pitú brand, is an example of the recent investment of cachaça producers in gourmet labels. “The drink originates from the Pitú founder’s reserve and was offered just to friends and family members in special moments”, reveals the company’s commercial and marketing director, Alexandre Ferrer.
According to Ferrer, the idea was to produce a unique product from a rigorous selection of the source material including the process of ageing it at least five years in French oakwood barrels. “After this phase, the cachaça is transfered to American oakwood barrels with the idea of improving its sensorial qualities. At the end, it’s artisanally bottled with exclusively-designed packaging. The bottles are made of French crystal and the tops, from Portuguese cork”, details the director.
The history of Reserva 51 is also much older than its launch date, in 2009. “The drink was kept a secret for a long time. After seven years of intense research, the Premium version of the 51 brand went through an improvement process. An exclusive line of American oakwood-aged cachaça was developed with a special finalizing in three different types of barrels, in accordance with each edition: Rara (wine), Única (oakwood) and Singular (amburana)”, explains the commercial and marketing director, Rodrigo Maia.
Another brand that follows the artisanal process is Quilombo, produced in Chã Grande, in the Agreste region of Pernambuco. Its production ages between one and six years in oakwood barrels. Adilênio Sukar Junior, owner of the cachaça producer reveals that the Pernambucan consumer is starting to understand the uniqueness of a special cachaça. “Being artisanal, our product doesn’t contain any conservatives”, he says. According to him, the company manufactures around five thousand liters per year.
The history of cachaça gets wrapped up with the history of Brazil, since its colonization. The arrival of the Portuguese outsiders, which brought with it the planting of sugarcane; its consumption by African slaves and indigenous peoples and the tradition maintained until today makes the drink an important symbol of our culture. Today, it’s gaining ground in the global market, being appreciated in many ways, be it pure or chilled, mixed with the most diverse kinds of drinks or accompanied with fruits, coffees and teas. – Source (PT)